Building community in Ireland and empowering young people

Safe Haven Ireland is a community organisation founded in 2015. We provide sail training opportunities to children and young people (typically aged between 15 and 21). Our primary aims are to promote integration and youth development. Our vision is an Ireland with strong, integrated communities where all of its young people feel empowered.

Our voyages

A Syrian refugee, resettled to Ireland, takes the helm © Phil Behan for UNHCR, 2017

A Syrian refugee, resettled to Ireland, takes the helm © Phil Behan for UNHCR, 2017

Each voyage has a mixture of participants from different backgrounds. We include young people from ethnic minority backgrounds, prioritising those who have experienced the asylum system in Ireland. We offer places to Irish-national participants, often from inner city areas, who would not otherwise have this kind of opportunity. The trainees in each group come together to undertake the experience of a lifetime: a week or more at sea as the crew of a yacht or Tall Ship.

During their time on board the participants learn how to sail a ship and how to navigate in challenging Irish coastal waters, making their own decisions about what course to plot over the week. In the process they learn the vital importance of working as a team 24-hours a day, as they take the helm, raise and lower sails, stand watches, cook for each other and keep the vessel ship-shape. Each group of young people step onto the boat as its passengers and disembark as its crew.

This exciting programme enables the participants to gain much more than sailing skills. They build strong bonds with each other by virtue of a shared experience which in many cases will go on to have a profound influence on the rest of their lives. The young people educate each other about their backgrounds and different cultures and together forge a new vision for their shared futures on the island of Ireland.

Other projects

Safe Haven Ireland aims to build capacity in other organisation where we can, connecting them with members of Ireland's new communities to help realise our vision of a truly diverse, modern Ireland. We have inspired and helped to facilitate projects in the following areas: Art, Theatre and Climate Change Youth Exchange.

In addition to creating our own integration / youth development projects, we encourage the young people we work with to get involved in wider Irish society. We act as a bridge between our participants and other organisations, actively striving to disseminate information and make connections with the underlying aim of encouraging integration more widely. Involvement in our project often results in a ripple effect leading to a greater integration impact - we have observed that participation in other areas of social and cultural life organically develops. For example one of our former participants is now an active member of a local rowing club in Cork through a connection he made on board one of our voyages. Another has started playing soccer with a team in Dublin that he was introduced to by one of our volunteers.  One of our trainees was appointed to the National Youth Council of Sail Training Ireland as a Youth Ambassador, a national leadership role in this sector. He is the only member on the Council from a non-Irish background. These are some exampeles of the enduring integration benefits for young people that derive from our work.


Safe Haven Ireland is a community organisation. We are regulated by the Charities Regulator. Our CHY number is 20105471. 

Safe Haven Ireland's work is guided by a firm belief in openness, transparency and accountability values. These values are incorporated in our integration activities as well in our partnerships and in our presence in the youth development sector.  

Our Child Protection and Safeguarding Statement, most recently revised on January 2019, is available here.

Our 2017 Annual Report, commissioned by the Community Foundation for Ireland, can be found here

We recognise that youth development and integration are only attainable when the needs and interests of both young men and women are fully acknowledged. The implementation of a gender equality policy is vital, and we adhere to 2004 Development Cooperation Ireland's Gender Equality Policy in the formulation of our strategies.

Meet our team

We work in partnership with local youth organisations and migrant charities who nominate the participants for each youth development opportunity, such as Foróige, the CRIB project Sligo, NASC - the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, the Irish Refugee Council, the Immigration Council of Ireland, Dublin City Council international youth club, Swan Youth Centre,  Bradog Youth Services, the Cork Life Centre and the European Youth in Migration Forum (EYMF). 

Safe Haven Ireland could not operate without our committed team of volunteers and we would like to acknowledge the support of those who devote their time and skills to this project:

We extend our thank you to the volunteers who have assisted us in varied capacities over the years:

Samantha Arnold, Paula Quirke, Greta Keegan, Alina Przybyl, Lye Ogunsanya, Diego Castillo, Lucia Smyth, Tom Adams, Anna Bates, Dara Flynn, Simon MacSuibhne 

Safe Haven Ireland Executive Committee and Board Members

Executive Committee

  • Shauna Gillan

  • Caoimhe Sheridan

  • Diego Castillo Goncalves


We wish to acknowledge the kind support of our sponsors for 2018 and 2019:
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